Plateau du Mauvais Berger
I remember one autumn morning when only the grouse disturbed the silence of the alder tree. When I arrived at the Col du Barbier before sunrise, there was a high altitude cloud ceiling. When the sun rose from the crests of the Italian border, its rays lit the clouds, setting the alpine pastures and walls of the Rateau d´Aussois ablaze with orange and hues of purple. There was not a soul in sight, just silence. It was magnificent. Pierre Lacosse, Vanoise National Park ranger
- Departure : Car park at the Plan d’Amont dam (Aussois)
- Arrival : Car park at the Plan d’Amont dam (Aussois)
- Towns crossed : AUSSOIS
Rail connection to Modane. Information: www.voyages-sncf.com
Then transport by coach to the administrative centre of Aussois. Information: www.transavoie.com
No public transport between Aussois and the dam site.
Suggested hitchhiking organised in the Haute-Maurienne valley. Information: www.rezopouce.fr
Access and parking
At Modane, take the D 215 in the direction of Aussois. Once you’ve arrived in Aussois, go to the top of the village and take the small road that rises towards the dams. Leave a panoramic viewpoint on the left and take a steep road on the right for 100 m to reach the dam.
10 points of interest
The Plan d’Aval Dam"Crossing the dyke of the Plan d´Aval dam, you will notice its double vault construction standing on a rocky bastion. The dam is made of cut stone, part of which comes from the old quarry, known as the ""tile"" which now contains the car park. Built between 1945 and 1956, these two water reservoirs are integrated into the Haute-Maurienne hydrœlectric system and help to fill the Mont-Cenis dam."
View over the village of AussoisŸou have already climbed 150 m, enjoy a short break on this sloping ledge within a hairpin bend to the left. A superb view over the village of Aussois awaits you. With the help of the photo, you will be able to see that the old village was concentrated over a few roads. The area was preserved for hay meadows and crops. The wooded areas, then, occupied little space on this slope which was used entirely for agriculture.
The black grouseInhabiting the upper limits of the alpine forest and the fields of bilberries and rhododendron, the black grouse is also known as the black cock. Very discrete, thanks to its brown homochromatic plumage, the female is very difficult to spot. With its black plumage and its lyre-shaped tail after which it is named, the male draws much attention. In the spring, at daybreak the cocks engage in spectacular courtship displays alternating between combat and intimidation whereby they coo and hiss powerfully. The black grouse’s ability to adapt to its environment make it particularly sensitive to disturbances and human activities. Its numbers are decreasing throughout the Alps. The black grouse is, however, a huntable species.
The alderArcosse or véroce are the patois names for Green Alder (Alnus viridis). This shrub colonises the avalanche paths. Its flexibility means it dœs not get torn by the avalanches. These stems spring up when the snow melts in springtime. The male parts of the plant are catkins which appear in the spring and these pollinate the female parts called achenes. The colonisation of green alders can eradicate the rhododendron moors, which are favourable to the black grouse.
The wolfThe wolves inhabiting the valley come from Italy and hence are called Abruzzo wolves. They are distinguished by their white mask and black line on the tibia. The wolves live in packs of 2 to 5 on average. The wolf is a carnivore which feeds mainly on ungulates such as deer or chamois. Only the dominant pair of the pack breeds. The cubs are born in a den in late spring. Although the preferred habitat of the wolf is the forest, it ventures into the alpine pastures in search of easy prey such as flocks of sheep.
The patou dogThe natural return of the wolf has wreaked havoc on pastoral practices. In order to protect their flocks, breeders have put in place protective measures: the presence of a shepherd to monitor the sheep as well as the establishment of enclosures. To complete this measure, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs (Patous), used secularly, have been reintroduced to the mountain pastures. The word patou designates the dog’s protective role and not its race. The dogs generally used are Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. The patou protects the herd against everything he considers a predator, one of which is the wolf.
Goats and sheepOn this alpine pasture of the “mauvais berger” goats and sheep are to be found. The goats are dairy cattle that descend the pasture every evening to be milked. Their milk is used for the local production of cheese. The lambs and sheep are sent to the meat industry. The lambs are born around March and grow all summer in the alpine pastures. Only the breeding ewes are kept in the sheepfold for winter. The Mauvais Berger flock consists of animals from several different owners. Pooling the flocks means the costs of herd care are shared.
The bearded vultureIn addition to its very large wingspan (almost 3 m), the bearded vulture also imposes itself by its fire-coloured breast as an adult. In fact, its breast is stained by bathing in the ferruginous spring waters. Other peculiarities: it feeds on the bone marrow of dead animals. To get to the marrow, it carries the bones in its talons and drops them over rocks to break them, which is why it’s called the bone-breaker. A very large glider, it is not uncommon to see it passing over the mountain pasture of Barbier as it takes advantage of the thermal currents of the southern slope.
The Fond d’Aussois and the damsThe two dammed lakes occupy the site of two ancient alpine pastures. A project for a third lake was to be used to flood the Fond d´Aussois pasture. These three successive plateaus are the result of fillings by the glacial basin. Three shallow lakes were to exist at the melting of the glaciers. They were filled by fluvio-lacustrine deposits to then become these hospitable alpine pastures. The photo shows the two alpine pastures of Plan d´Aval and Plan d´Amont crossed by the gentle mountain stream of Saint-Benoit.
- Small heritage
Vanoise National Park“Here there is space. Here there is pure air. Here there is silence. The kingdom of flawless dawns and naive beasts...”. It was with these words that Samivel wrote the commandments of the National Park upon its creation in 1963. Ÿou enter a protected area, “the great garden of the French” which it is your responsibility to protect. The regulations are displayed on the various panels intended for hikers.